The Monteleones apparently didn’t want the 2016 American Canyon High girls tennis season to be their only legacy.
Amber Monteleone, who was 3-0 in singles during the Wolves’ CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff run last fall, capped a 5-4 Solano County Athletic Conference win over Vanden on Sept 5 with a 3½-hour victory at No. 2 singles, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 over Simmone Darbonne.
“It was definitely tiring because both my opponent and I were very consistent and so there were long rallies for each point,” Monteleone said. “After she won the second set, I was down. But I knew that my team was counting on me, even though I didn’t know I was the deciding match at the time. I knew that I needed to show my teammates that, regardless of what situation you’re in, you always have to try 100 percent.”
She and Darbonne were tied 5-5 in the third set before Monteleone pulled away.
“My team was backing me up because I was doing it all for them,” Monteleone said. “I knew I had to show an example that I had to keep trying, keep going, regardless of how tired I was. I hope I don’t play her the next time. I don’t want to play a 3½-hour match again.”
American Canyon beat the Vikings for the first time last year, twice. Getting their third win over Vanden in four tries showed the rest of the SCAC that the Wolves have a solid program, not just the ability to field a strong team every few years.
Also in singles against Vanden, No. 1 Yanci Yanez won 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 over Katie McDaniel, No. 2 Shannia DeLeon fell 6-0, 6-4 to Madison Gauldin, No. 4 Carmelina Herrera won 6-2, 6-2 over Sarah Bergendahl, No. 5 Lylah Awad won 6-2, 7-5 over Audrey Lagrisola, and No. 6 Grace Warioba won 6-2, 6-2 over Devina Velasquez.
Vanden swept the doubles. At No. 1 it was Cora Bigham and Eryca Antonio over Rozell Constantino and Savanna Harwood, 6-3, 7-5. At No. 2, Emily Thompson and Melissa Bassa won 6-4, 6-2 over Genesis Billingsley and Yesenia Alvarez. At No. 3, it was Tateonjra Rucker and Sarina Martinez over Lila Hawes and Ellie Angold, 6-1, 7-5.
With Yanez also having a three-setter, she and Monteleone got a day of rest when the Wolves fell 8-1 to visiting Benicia on Sept. 6. Only Warioba won, 6-1, 7-6 (7-2), at No. 5 singles. American Canyon (2-1 SCAC) had opened conference play with a 9-0 win over Fairfield.
The Wolves’ returning seniors are Shannia DeLeon, Yanez, Monteleone, Herrera, Harwood, Constantino, the returning juniors are Warioba and Alvarez, and the returning sophomores are Arriella Guidubaldi, Emily Koekemoer, Awad, Angold and Billingsley.
The Wolves’ newcomers are seniors Ramya Chandrasekaran and Ariana Giacomazzi, along with Berke Nauright, Tatiana Chopitea, Kianti DeLeon, Kyla Maharaj, Sabina Mendoza, My Huyen Nguyen, Marisa Balades, Joanne Manalo, Joycee Cruz, Lupita Servin, Mari-Al Igama, Lauren Wheelhouse, Mia Ang, Rosalie Llave, Charlene Maglalang, Mary Manuta, Samreet Khaira, Ashmeet Bedi and Hawes.
The Wolves had 34 players come out for the sport this year – so many, that head coach Annie Monteleone has the school’s first-ever JV team in the sport.
“I’m very excited (to have 34 players out),”co-captain Amber Monteleone said. “At first we didn’t think we would have that many people because last year we only had 19. It’s very humbling and heartwarming that these girls not only love being with each other but also want to try a new sport. The sophomores who were on the team as freshmen were actually the ones who (recruited) everyone.”
The younger players really want to be there, too.
“They have a lot of enthusiasm and when you have that energy to work more and work harder, it really gets contagious, and eventually the entire team loves to come to practice,” Amber Monteleones said. “Everyone enjoys being with each other and I really do sense that a lot of girls enjoy learning. Once they see the improvement they’re making, they feel very rewarded and so the enthusiasm builds even more.”
Annie Monteleone said having five starters graduate has forced her to focus on creating a program that doesn’t fall off after having a successful season.
“My goal is to build up so we don’t have a strong team one year and the next year have a huge gap. That why we have a lot of JV players,” she said. “I want to start building them, from loving tennis to playing better day by day. The experienced players want to win, and I want to make sure they know the different kinds of tools – drop shots, groundstrokes, volleys, that kind of thing – and when they can use those tools to play different kinds of players so they can win by skill, not luck. For the beginners, make sure their fundamentals are solid and then build up from there.”
Amber Monteleone, who compiled a 4.57 GPA last year and is still one of the top students her class, said the whole team puts education first despite its success on the court.
“I’m very proud to say that the girls tennis team has one of the highest GPAs of any sport here,” she said. “We’ve never had a problem with anyone dropping below the academic requirement. Not only are we good players, but we’re also very studious.”
Herrera, who played doubles the last three years, said she’s glad the program is growing.
“I really wanted to recruit more people for next year because we have eight seniors this year,” she said. “I think we have like 15 sophomores, a lot, but it’s better to have more than less.”
Herrera is also one of the top seniors academically at the school.
“In the classroom with project-based learning, it’s a lot of working with others and really intense stuff, so when you come onto the court it’s a great way to release and just focus on the ball and not anything else,” she said. “Tennis is a very disciplined sport. I think if you’re good at school, you’re good at tennis because you’re very disciplined and you know strategies and use your critical thinking.”
Coach Monteleone said her players were able to win two playoff matches last year because of their mental strength.
“Last year I trained the top players to not use their muscles but their brains, because in tennis there’s no time limit in which you have to finish. You want to point out what your opponent’s weaknesses are and attack those weaknesses, and make sure you’re not playing your opponent’s game,” she explained. “I think that’s how we beat Vanden for the first time last year and finished No. 2 in the league and got to the section semifinals.
“If they have determination, they can win for the team and not just for themselves. Sometimes when you play singles, you think you’re playing for yourself, but the team needs them and we all have to support each other.”